Adult ADHD Diagnostic Criteria

The diagnosis of Adult ADHD has often been hard to make for many doctors who aren’t experts in ADHD. This relates to the fact that the criteria for the disorder are primarily written based on how the condition appears in kids. So, many of the diagnostic criteria don’t apply well to adults.

We now know that approximately 4% of the US adult population has ADHD, though most people have trouble finding a doctor to diagnose them, and provide them with the treatment to help them.

Experts are currently reviewing the diagnostic criteria in the DSM. The new version – the DSM-5 will be coming out in the next year or two. In this report, a scientist is reported to say that the criteria for adult ADHD will be adapted in the new version of the manual. This will likely help adults with ADHD to get the diagnosis that they need – and no doubt it will also raise concerns by the skeptics that too many adults are being diagnosed. I will likely welcome the change – because it is my impression that it will likely improve things for adults with ADHD more than it will hinder or harm.

What do you think?


Dr. Kenny


  1. I look forward to a revision. I have had a VERY difficult time finding a professional to treat me individually based on my symptoms as a woman.

  2. I think it will help many people like myself. Luckily, the boarding school I went to had a good psychaitrist and I had a good counselor. I was diagnosed at the end of my senior year. I’d always struggled but had never been diagnosed as a kid, but I definitely never grew out of the symptoms. Now I’m on the medication I need and my life has become much more productive and I feel a lot more positive about my abilities and potential. I know now that I’m not stupid or a failure, but that I have a legitimate condition that has held me back. I know for certain there are others like me who need help, but the lack of diagnostic criteria for adults keeps them from getting the medication they need, and I just ended up being one of the lucky ones. I hope the revisions in the DSM-IV open the doors for other ADD/ADHD adults like myself.

  3. Is it possible that someone could have been misdiagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder Type – I Mania, when the diagnosis should have been Adult ADHD? What effect would the different medications have on the progress of their treatment?

    • Yes, it is possible. Not that likely but possible. There would be a big difference in medications… Worth getting a second opinion if you are concerned…
      Of course a certain percentage of people have both ADHD and bipolar…

  4. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable and well read on the subject of adhd and adult add inparticular, so it was with great expectations that i had a consultation with one of the few ‘specialists’ in my province. it was without a doubt one of the most disappointing and actually somewhat bizarre encounters i’ve had. the doctor in question had just done a 24 hour shift and could not stop yawning. he presented me with a one page questionaire that was just straight yes or no ….no rating system in terms of severity or frequency. i commented that it was a ‘child’s form’ and would be impossible for me as an adult to properly fill out. he said to answer the questions in terms of how they would have been answered when i was a child. i thought this probably had some merit in terms of proviing that symptoms had been present in childhood, but when i read a copy of the letter he wrote and sent to my doctor, i was shocked. he stated that i had said yes to everything on the form, when in fact i had an X beside some AND he made it sound as though i STILL have these symptoms…. which is not true. as a child i was very physically hyper, now it’s more of a mental hyperactivity…. the whole thing was nuts. what frustrates me is not just that i drove a total of 4 hours to see this fellow and that the visit was a write off, it’s that i’m now stuck with this ‘professional’s’ evaluation. so i for one look forward to a time when there is a standard and SENSIBLE assessment form for adults. having said that, i know from my own reading & research that there are many that are far better than what he presented me with…..

  5. I think it will help, if for no other reason than to help those who were dx ADD/ADHD in childhood, to have “proof” that you don’t always outgrow it.
    While I firmly believe that I do indeed have ADD (dx Jan 2011 after my son’s dx in spring 2010), I also think our general lifestyle in the “modern” world exacerbates the brain-farts & distractability that everyone has.

    One area, based on my own observations & info-gathering/discussions with teachers & health professionals, that might be “over” dx is ADHD. While I have zero doubt there are many children who have been dx as “hyper” and indeed are, I think also that many have been affected by the changes in mainstream food, and the changes in school & home-life. Gone are the days where ANY healthily-active child can go outside 1-2x a day at school through grade 8; gone are the days that you could easily say “Go play in the street” – or yard if you’re lucky enough to even have one – while Mom or Dad fixes supper. You worry about your child going down the street to their friends.

    In short – the opportunities for children to burn off their youthful energy in a safe – and cheap – way are in short supply for most families. Thus that energy has to get out somehow, and it does so in ways that are not helpful to the child nor the surrounding people.
    And on the other side of the coin – for the ADD-primary children – the way most classes are “taught to the (SOL) test” now makes for very limited opportunities for a teacher to teach engaging subjects & to take the time for those that don’t quite catch on. Add to that same-length of days as when I was in Elem. School 30+ yrs ago, and increasing class size – it makes it hard on the teachers to make learning interesting & exciting for the kids. And they just tune out.

    My 2 cents – YMMV

    • Excellent post Sabrina. Agree with all your comments. You said that teachers in government schools are not able to engage the students…sorry, not gonna happen. That is no longer their purpose. Their purpose today is to indoctrinate and prepare them for the progressive agenda. Sorry, sad but true.
      Ok. Understand, I am here for the info on ADD/ADHD and Dr.Kenny has put forth some awesome information, which is very much appreciated, but when I see comments about the government school system I feel obligated to speak up. Actually, I have been speaking up about this problem since I was in the fourth grade and, of course, was always told to stop or be sent home.
      If you doubt my words, please just do a search for “john dewey”. This is where youi will findu the beginning of the destruction.

  6. Thank goodness!! I am so glad that the DSM 5 will finally help to make Adult ADHD looked aat seriously as a “Real” disorder… I have been to one therapist after another as well as one Psychiatrist after another in which their credentials do not specify or support expertise in ADHD in Adults or Children for that matter… I have found one Psychiatrist that does believe in my diagnosis and is treating me with Adderall for the past 5 yrs… However, since I relocated my living situation this Dr. is too far away and when I tried to locate a new one, the doctor either tells me No we are not taking new patients??? or No, we do not treat adults with ADHD, or we do not treat for ADHD, etc… this is ludicrous to me!! So I recently walked into a a Psychiatris office whom I have never seen or heard of before, but I noticed he deals specifically with DRUG ABUSE and ADDICTION, and because of my knowledge in the field we know that many ADHD adults and teens that are undiagnosed end up self medicating with illegal substances (I am not one of them) I figured hey, maybe this doctor would have a handle on ADHD!! Cool right?? Well I booked an appt with him and have been seeing him for about 4 months however…Although I have been formally diagnosed with ADHD for 7yrs now he is trying to RULE Out my ADHD because he doesn’t like ADDERAL!! Because he is an Addiction specialist I believe he is biased in his theory.. He is ruling out my adhd, and saying he believes my primary diagnosis is OCD… I said to him I believe I may have both because I was also diagnosed as having General Anxiety Disorder comorbid with ADHD!! However he is trying to diagnose me with Ocd as my primary disorder instead of ADHD when I know damn well from my other two docs that I have ADHD!!! UGH!

    In addition to this, IO have an employer who literally laughed in my face when I said I have an attention deficit disorder, as an answer to him when he asked me why I wan’t able to submit my commission report in on time… (I am a Marketing sales consultant for a sleep lab) He also said he cannot understand how I am the TOP Sales person in company earning the most money and have the most rapports recommendations etc, if I am only seeing 6 of my accounts a day…He keeps telling me this is not” normal”… I let him know I multi task, I email other accounts, on way in to one acccount, I text at same time so I am technically visiting per say double the amount of clients per day… So can you believe he turned around and said” I do not know what your disorder is , nor do I care, all I know is that we are putting a gps tracker on your cell phone so we can see that you are performing and geting to physically in to 8 accounts per day… But I explained if I have a disorder and sometimes need to muti task while on road, getting texts giving texts, emails on my way in out of clients I am actually reaching more and If I am the number one sales person, why does it matter… All my boss said is because ” I am the only one employee who does not do things normal” So I am actually being penalized for having ADHD and being more effective at my job than my associates… Sometimes with ADHD we have a time perception problem, where we think only 10 minutes has passed by when in fact it could be a half hour, or sometimes we get lost going to an accouint, and end up taking the long way, so to make up for these deterrents or hinderances I have a gps in car, I have every email and cell phone of everyone I speak with and probably generate business form double to triple the amount of my my counterparts, but my bosses still are not happy… HopefullY ADHD will be considered a real disorder for adults.. and prove to the world, doctors, employers, etc that we are talented, efficient people that add a dimension to society that cannot be replicated and should embrace these differences and relish in the rewards that ADHD brings to life, as oppossed to looking at us like we are outcasts, or that we are using excuses for behaviors that they say we so called “can’t control”… I MAY BE AN ADULT WITH ADHD, BUT IO TRY TO FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES THAT MY DISORDER BRINGS AND I TRY TO LET EMPLOYERS KNOW THEY SHOULD TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MY TALENTS, I MAY DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY BUT RELISH IN THE FACT IT CAN BRING ABOUT THE SURPASSING OF RESULTS AND GOALS IMAGINEABLE, AND PROVING THIS I AM PROUD THAT I AM NOT “NORMAL’… LISA

    • Im not 100% sure, but I read adult adhd is recognized as a disability. Therefore you have rights under the americans with disabilies act. Tell the jerk to read up on it before he gets sued for discriminstion under the act.

Leave a Reply